KOA gets into ‘glamping’ game

BAR HARBOR — A long-established campground in Town Hill is proposing to replace many of its existing tent and cabin sites with canvas tents on wood platforms, each with electricity, hot and cold running water and bathrooms.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on March 20 on Kampgrounds of America’s (KOA) has application to renovate the Woodlands campground on Route 102. Proposed renovations also include the construction of a new club house, a new entrance road and a reduction in camp sites from 128 to 68, according to the application.

The number of parking spaces will also be reduced from 130 spaces to 75.

Sam Coplon of Coplon Associates explained when he presented the proposal to the planning board last month: “Essentially, ‘glamping’ is the word that you may have heard.”

In addition to the tent sites, new club house and new entrance, plans also include a new bath house, new maintenance building and a refurbished pool on the same spot as the current pool.

The septic system will also be expanded to accommodate toilets in each tent, Coplan said. “We’ve gone through an analysis of the existing septic system, and we will be adding a small system,” he told the planning board.

Parking spaces will be along the main access road, and the tent sites will be located down walking or cart paths. “In part, this is really to create a more holistic camping experience and get the vehicles, get the traffic, get the noise away from the camping experience,” he said.

“The intent is to reduce the overall development footprint, decrease the amount of development close to protected resources and create a less dense, more appealing resort environment,” application materials say.

As for the current entrance to the campground, that will still be used as a driveway to the house on the property, and an Island Explorer bus loop.

“All other traffic will be handled through the new entrance,” Coplon said.

The campground will retain four RV pads for employee use.

According to the application, KOA Woodlands campground was developed in 1970, before Bar Harbor enacted its current land use ordinance (LUO). The campground straddles three districts: Town Hill Rural, Shoreland Limited Residential and Town Hill Business districts.

Under the current LUO, campground use is only allowed in the Town Hill Business district. Coplon told the planning board that the applicant had received approval from the appeals board in September for the relocation of non-conforming uses within the Town Hill Rural and Shoreland Limited Residential districts, allowing for the proposed project to proceed.

The application lacked proof of the appeals board decision, as well as documentation from the Army Corps of Engineers, police, public works and fire department. The planning board moved to find the application incomplete, scheduling the public hearing for March 20 pending the receipt of required documents.

In 2017 the planning board approved the application for a smaller “glamping” development, currently operating as Woods of Eden Glampgound off Route 3.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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